The threat of a government shutdown intensified as the GOP-led House failed to muster a majority to approve legislation to fund the government after Republicans insisted that federal disaster aid be paid for with spending cuts elsewhere.
In a surprise defeat, the legislation was narrowly rejected Wednesday after a tense afternoon of vote counting. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) had hoped to avoid another budget battle after the summer's debt ceiling fight and an earlier threat of government shutdown left voters sour on both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
But the annual spending bill ran into trouble on two fronts, as conservatives rejected the spending level as too high and Democrats opposed the GOP approach to FEMA aid. Democratic leaders urged their rank-and-file to vote no.
Congress has just days to resolve the impasse, as lawmakers are expected to recess Friday for next week's Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.